Help the UNICEF in their endeavour to improve maternal health – Part 1

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Understanding the reasons behind the huge disparity in maternal health between developed and developing countries


The global statistics on maternal health are nothing less than shocking:

  • Every minute, somewhere in the world, a woman dies from complications in childbirth. That’s almost 529,000 women who die in childbirth every year.
  • The vast majority of childbirth related deaths occur in developing countries.
  • Women in sub-Saharan Africa have a one-in-sixteen chance of dying during pregnancy or childbirth as compared to the one-in-4,000 risk in developing countries. This is the single largest health disparity between the rich and poor countries.
  • The burden of disease in children below five years of age is directly related to poor maternal health and nutrition, as well as the poor quality of care at delivery and during the newborn period.
  • An estimated eight million babies die before or during delivery or in the first week of life.
  • Children who are left motherless each year are more likely to die within two years of their mother’s death.

 

Gap Medics students with a patient on the maternity ward in Chiang Mai

These statistics cannot be ignored and almost all international aid organisations have put in place measures to reduce this glaring disparity. One of these is the UNICEF.

The UNICEF’s target is to reduce global maternal mortality by 75% by the year 2015.

This is tied in with their goal to reduce child mortality. Healthy children need healthy mothers. When a mother dies in childbirth, it lowers her child’s chances of survival.

 

 

The factors that result in maternal deaths in poorer countries are varied and complex. Poverty, illiteracy, lack of proper medical care and non-existent sanitary facilities all play a part in contributing to the statistics.

The direct causes of maternal deaths include hypertensive disorders in pregnancy, haemorrhage, obstructed labour, complications of unsafe abortion and infections.

Another risk to expectant women in these countries is malaria. Malaria is common in tropical countries and contracting the disease can lead to anaemia, which increases the risk for maternal and infant mortality and developmental problems for babies.

 

In addition, there are also several birth-related disabilities that affect some women and which go untreated, such as injuries to organs, pelvic muscles or the spinal cord. Nutritional deficiencies contribute to low birth weight and birth defects as well.

HIV infection is an increasing threat too and has become a major cause of maternal mortality in many countries in Southern Africa that are highly affected. Mother-to-child transmission of HIV in resource-poor settings continues to be a growing problem. Up to 45% of HIV-infected mothers transmit the infection to their children.

 

The fact remains that most of these pregnancy and childbirth related disabilities and deaths are mainly due to insufficient care during pregnancy and delivery. With the proper care, most of these deaths would be preventable. Access to skilled professional care during pregnancy, childbirth and the first few months after delivery is the key to saving these women’s lives and those of their children.

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